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Anderson Continues His March on “Home” Court


DELRAY BEACH –The final four is set for the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.

The semifinals for the 22nd annual event will include three of the top eight seeds and a 24-year-old American qualifier who has caused a stir here this week in his second year as a professional.

The two evening quarterfinal matches Friday went as expected, with No. 2 seed John Isner and No. 7 seed Marin Cilic advancing to set up one semifinal matchup on Saturday. The other side of the semifinal bracket includes No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa and American qualifier Steve Johnson, who registered his second consecutive win against a seeded player.

Isner, the world’s highest ranked American at No. 13 and the No. 2 seed here, was stretched to three sets for his third consecutive match this week in beating American qualifier Rhyne Williams 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Isner delivered 18 aces and won 89 percent of his first serves against Williams, who was playing in only his second career ATP quarterfinal. Isner is now 6-0 in deciding third sets this year.

“Trust me, I’d like to win it in two sets,” said Isner, who reached his third consecutive semifinal in Delray Beach. “But I’m winning them.”

Cilic, who is ranked No. 29 in the world, now has won an ATP World Tour-leading 16 matches and is off to a 16-4 start this season. The Croatian delivered 12 aces in his win against Gabashvili.

“Good times are rolling,” said Cilic, who will put his 20-match winning streak against Americans on the line against Isner on Saturday. “This was my first night match (here) and it was a bit gusty. I’m just trying to play everything I have.”

Johnson, in his second year on the World Tour, made a name for himself when he played for the University of Southern California. He’s making a name for himself as a pro at his debut here this week.

Two days after upsetting No. 1 seed and world No. 12-ranked Tommy Haas, Johnson delivered another sterling performance Friday afternoon when he defeated No. 6 seed and 27th ranked Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-2 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

The win earned the 24-year-old Johnson a spot in his first career ATP semifinal. Johnson had to win two qualifying matches to earn a spot in the 32-player main draw here.

Anderson, ranked No. 21 in the world, punched his ticket into the semifinals when he fought back from a set down to defeat Aussie Marinko Matosevic 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3. Johnson won his afternoon match in half the time (1 hour, 13 minutes) that Anderson needed to dispose of Matosevic.

“I’m playing composed tennis and staying within myself,” said Johnson, who won back-to-back singles titles at USC and led the Trojans to four NCAA titles, the first collegiate player to accomplish that feat.

[frame align=”left”]johnson_story[/frame]Johnson, who finished his college career on a 72-match winning streak, followed up his stunning win against Haas, the biggest of his young professional career, with an all-around solid performance against Lopez, who registered back-to-back three-set wins over Sam Querrey and Adrian Mannarino to reach his first quarterfinal match of the season.

“I played some good tennis and executed really well,” Johnson said. “I hit my forehand really well. I felt pretty calm.”

Saturday’s semifinal between Anderson and Johnson will match two players who crafted their game in college instead of tennis academies.

“This is absolutely awesome for college tennis. It’s great to see,” Johnson said.

Anderson, who beat Matosevic in the 2012 Delray Beach final, improved his record to 12-3 at this venue. He’s making his fifth consecutive appearance here and is coming off a career-best year in 2013.

Neither player broke serve until 3-3 of the second set when Anderson broke Matosevic and went on to close out the set that changed the momentum in Anderson’s favor. He also broke Matosevic twice in the first four games of the third set and punctuated the victory with a 131 mph ace on the final point of the match.

“I’ve played him a couple times before (on the World Tour) and it’s a battle each time,” Anderson said of Matosevic, who has yet to beat the former University of Illinois standout in three ATP matches. “I just hung in there and finally got that breakthrough in the second set. It was gusty and it was tough to get a rhythm.”

Anderson bought a house in Delray Beach last year, so the Delray Beach Tennis Center is becoming his home court.

“Last week I was here (to practice) several times. I get out here quite a lot,” Anderson said. “I’m in the semis and that’s a great feeling.”

The semifinals of doubles also will be contested Saturday. Czech Frantisek Cermak and Russian Mikhail Elgin will face Samuel Groth of Australia and Max Mirnyi of Belarus at 1 p.m. (EST), followed by the singles semifinal between Anderson and Johnson. Top-seeded brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will take on Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock in an all-American doubles semifinal at 6:30 p.m. The day will conclude with the other singles semifinal between Cilic and Isner in the nightcap.